JANUARY 30, 2017 will mark the eleventh year since the assassination of my brother and comrade, Ronald Waddell, who was shot multiple times by state-sponsored gunmen after he entered his car in front of his residence at Sea Glimpse, Subryanville, opposite the sea wall.
I want to use this opportunity to reflect on the life and work of Waddell, who in my opinion, was a multi-talented person. In the period when he bestrode the earth, Waddell was a journalist, a popular television talk show host, a politician, a Rastafarian, a cultural activist and a fighter for African Liberation both at home and abroad. At the time of his death darkness had already descended on the community where he lived. Persons on and around the seawall area were going about their business when suddenly, mayhem reigned. There were several reports from eyewitnesses, who spoke about hearing rapid gunfire and seeing, illuminated on the sky line, (tracer bullets) as the sound of the deadly gunfire rang out. In the aftermath, it was discovered that the victim of that vicious attack was Ronald Waddell and by then, the gunmen had made good their escape in a waiting motor car. Throughout these 11 years the law enforcement authorities in Guyana appear to be either impotent or reluctant (or both), to investigate the circumstances around this most heinous assassination and in the process, bring to justice, not only to those who carried out the execution, but also the intellectual authors who planned the crime.
When the news broke that Waddell was killed and the manner in which the execution was carried out, public opinion was that the PPP regime was responsible for the killing. People concluded that the rulers conspired with their then ally, the infamous drug lord, Roger Khan, to take him out. Even some of Waddell’s detractors across the political divide, including some within the PPP, were united in their belief that the killing was political and that the rulers were involved.
The regime, faced with widespread public condemnation, was forced to release a statement condemning the killing as unfortunate and promised to bring to justice, those responsible. The statement was deemed an act of hypocrisy on the part of the regime. It was far from convincing. Only the politically-naive at the time believed that there was no government involvement in the killing. The fact that Waddell was an uncompromising critic of the regime and an advocate for the empowerment and liberation of Africans could not be denied. He seized on every opportunity to make his positions known and he fearlessly spoke out against the PPP government’s oppressive policies, which marginalised the African poor and powerless. His advocacy on these issues offended the rulers and their allies in the drug trade. As a result of incurring their wrath several death threats were directed at him. There was a deliberate and systematic policy by the regime and their allies to ostracise and deem him a racist. Waddell was also subjected to public verbal attacks by officials of the government, including then President Bharrat Jagdeo.
The extent of the PPP’s disaffection with Waddell and, confirmation of that party’s and Roger Khan’s involvement in his execution was revealed in a US court in 2010, during the trial of Khan‘s American Attorney, Robert Simmels, who was charged with witness tampering. In Simmels’ criminal trial Selwyn Vaughn, a self-confessed former member of Khan‘s phantom/death squad, who gave a sworn testimony as a prosecution witness, said that elements of Roger Khan’s death squad, acting under instructions from Khan, carried out the execution of Waddell. Vaughn further testified that he was the lookout man in the operation. He told the court that after the execution, drug kingpin, Roger Khan, immediately called Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, who at that time was a Senior Minister in the PPP government, and informed him that the operation was successful. Vaughn also testified that Khan instructed Ramsammy to ensure that no medical attention should be given to Waddell when his body arrived at the Georgetown Public Hospital. In his sworn evidence at Simmel’s trial, which was not refuted by the defence, Vaughn stated that Khan indicated to Ramsammy that he must “Let him (Waddell) die”.
Vaughn’s unchallenged testimony at Simmel’s trial was a clear indictment of the PPP regime and Roger Khan’s collusion in the assassination of Waddell. Comrades involved in the struggle against the PPP’s oppressive behaviour understood the political context of the execution and were not fooled by the regime hypocritical statement on the killing.
It is now 19 months since a change in government in Guyana and surprisingly, there is no indication that the incumbent coalition government intends to treat the matter of Waddell’s assassination as one of high priority. Throughout the country and particularly, in the African community, there is growing uneasiness that the execution of Waddell and the killing of the more than four hundred citizens, who died extra-judicially, the majority of them at the hands of state sponsored killers, during the PPP’s rule, have been put on the back burner. For many Guyanese this is a troubling development given the commitment by the APNU+AFC coalition, who while in opposition committed to pursue and bring to justice those responsible for these blatant acts of murder. It is understandable that while the PPP was in office the law enforcement agencies never carried out any serious investigations to find Waddell killers. But, in the new dispensation ushered in by the results of the 2015 elections the fact that there is no statement emanating from the powers that be that these killings will now be treated with the seriousness they deserve is at best, extremely worrying.
Over the years many persons within the African community have, on the occasions of great disaster, personal and national, been consoling themselves and each other with the saying “God works in mysterious ways”, in making these statements they have been implying that God, in periods of great distress, will deliver justice when the authorities fail to act. Notwithstanding the value of faith, I have over the years told myself that those of us who expect God to intervene as they want, have to take to the streets and demand justice for Ronald Waddell, Courtney Crum Ewing and the more than 400, mainly Africans men killed extra-judicially when the PPP was in office . It is then more likely that divine intervention will be manifested. We must remember it is written that God help those who help themselves.
It is my conviction that it is our ongoing patriotic duty to continue to expose the wickedness of the former rulers and demand justice for our martyrs. As an African community and as a Guyanese nation we have to keep reminding ourselves of the horrors of the past, and ensure that the past is not repeated. We owe this to those who perished as a result of the PPP’s reprehensible behavior, we owe it to ourselves and we owe it to future generations. We must say no to state-sponsored political killings. In the absence of a national agreement on the establishment of a truth commission, the best way to ensure that this evil does not raise its head again in our country, is to bring to justice those responsible for these crimes, including the intellectual authors, many of whom were officials in the former regime.